He was standing by the pool, holding a glass of rum and fruit juice in his left hand, when I saw him. He wore Hawaiian-flowered red Bermuda shorts and a white tank top that clung to his muscular torso and exposed his toned, bulging biceps. His skin was bronzed, whether from exposure to the sun or to a tanning bed, I didn’t know. His dark eyebrows were carefully salon-sculpted, and as he smiled and laughed with his throng of admirers hanging on his every word, his long lashes lowered over brown eyes dark enough to be black.
“Do you know who that is?” Rick hissed in my ear.
We were standing next to an enormous gas grill we’d purchased for the backyard when we’d rented this bungalow home off Laurel Canyon with its magnificent views of the hills and the valley. Rick and I were not a couple, just friends. We worked together at Lauren Canyon Medical Center, Rick in administration and I as a nurse. This place was probably way more than we ought to be paying, and the truth was if we didn’t get a couple of other roommates into the house soon, we’d have to vacate. But for now, for the summer, it was ours.
The backyard had been the selling point for me. Besides the tiled and cemented patio area next to the kidney-shaped pool, on the edges of the yard were lush, leafy trees that provided shelter from the afternoon heat, as well as one lemon and two orange trees.
This was not our first pool party since renting the place—we’d had three already—but it was the first time I had invited this particular guest, and I had been pretty surprised he had agreed to come.
“That’s Brady Laurens,” Rick continued before I’d had a chance to answer. “The actor. He’s the villain on that new television show everyone
is talking about.”
I lifted my beer to my lips, tilting the bottle back to take a drink. “Yes, I know.”
“How in the hell did he end up at our party of all places?” He opened the lid of the gas grill. “You think Marcia invited him?”
Marcia Brown was one of his coworkers and a woman Rick wanted to pursue personally. She had been friendly but uninterested in his romantic overtures. Marcia was definitely one of the women who surrounded Brady Laurens. Currently he had the attention of both men and women by the pool, where he held court.
“No,” I replied. “Marcia didn’t invite him. I did.”
The lid of the grill fell as Rick turned to face me. “You
? You know Brady Laurens?”
“He’s just a guy, Rick. Calm down.”
“Wait. Did you—were you…?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No. We were never lovers. Brady and I knew each other in grade and middle school in San Fernando Valley. After that he switched to a private school, and we lost touch.”
“Then how is he here?”
“He came into the hospital last week.” I shrugged. “Nothing serious. I was working that day and recognized him. To be honest, I never expected him to come when I invited him. It was completely casual.”
Not that I hadn’t wanted him to come. Brady was insanely hot and had, quite recently, come out as gay. I’d been surprised. I had thought he might be, back when we were kids—that wasn’t why I’d been surprised—but the fact that he’d come out in Hollywood and risk losing leading man roles had been surprising. Perhaps he preferred more villainous roles.
“Huh,” Rick said, reaching for his red wine. “I never would have guessed you knew a celebrity. You never said.”
“Well, as to that. I don’t really know him. I knew him. Don’t know much about him at all now.”
“Marcia’s over there gawking at him like she has a chance.” Rick eyed me dispassionately. “I’m going over there.”
I smiled and gestured with a wave. “Be my guest.”
* * * *
One of the things I loved about this place was that it was up on a little hill—not large enough to worry too much about mudslides, a frequent worry here, but enough so you could look over the walled-in backyard and get pretty spectacular views of the city and even your neighbors’ more extravagant homes.
The owner of our particular bungalow was the son of an old Hollywood B movies actress. She’d owned it herself until she’d gone to live in the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home in Woodland Hills. The son had a larger home closer to where his mother was now but didn’t want to part with a huge piece of his family’s history.
I involuntarily shivered at the deep timbre of his voice as he came up behind me while I looked out over the wall. I turned slightly to face him. “I go by Jeremiah these days.”
Brady’s smile was genuine instead of the practiced Hollywood-actor smile I’d noticed earlier when he’d been by the pool. “What are you doing? Spying on the neighbors?”
I laughed and shook my head, turning back to the view. “Well. Not intentionally, exactly.”